In the early spring of 2014, the Summer Collaborative — an organization that works with community based summer camps serving low-income students in Wilmington, Delaware — asked EXPLO for help. The goal? Combat summer learning loss. This is the story of how EXPLO is helping the Collaborative make that happen.
Typically, most low-income students start the school year each September already three months behind where they were in reading and math when they ended school in the spring. This loss accumulates summer after summer, and by high school, it means low-income students are way behind their middle class peers, making the prospect of going to college even that much more of a long shot.
The Collaborative wants to stop that learning slide in its tracks, so they asked EXPLO to help them revamp their lesson plans.
Normally, this might be where the story ends. For this partnership, it's only the beginning.
PBS NewsHour Features the Summer Collaborative
Recently, PBS NewsHour reported on the work of the Collaborative. Check out the PBS NewsHour piece and see how the Collaborative is changing the nature of learning at camps across the city of Wilmington.
Creating a More Holistic Approach to Summer Learning
As Moira Kelly, EXPLO's Executive Director, says, "Spending time in Wilmington last spring made me see that so much was possible. But I also saw that curriculum development was but a small part of the solution. Unless other areas were addressed — teacher/counselor professional development, a mindset shift on the part of leadership, organizational structure, supervision, and general operations — they simply wouldn't make the kind of impact that they were striving for."
"They needed to re-envision what camp could be," Kelly continues, "and I was pretty sure we could be helpful in that regard. So, I recommended a three-day retreat for the camp leadership at our headquarters in the Greater Boston area."
The Retreat: Bringing the Summer Collaborative to EXPLO
The retreat included a panel presentation and Q&A with Tufts University students who had taught at EXPLO and an observation at the Medford Boys & Girls Club, followed by a debrief at the EXPLOration Center. The next two days included numerous sessions with various year-round EXPLO staff members. The retreat ended with camp consulting sessions between EXPLO program heads and Collaborative camp leaders to concentrate on the needs of each individual camp.
"Thank you does not even begin to express how I feel after these last few days," one participant said. "Each activity was well planned and thought out and, it seems, designed to gently guide us to the idea that so much more is possible. We headed to this training with an open mind, but no idea that we’d be leaving with a plan to COMPLETELY REVAMP our entire camp schedule and the belief that doing so is possible, practical, and reasonably accomplishable."
After the retreat training, consults, led by Barb Trainor, EXPLO's Director of Curriculum and Instruction, continued both in person and via Skype, with Moira also conducting another round of consults via phone. Once summer arrived, Moira traveled to Delaware to see the camps in action, which in turn led to more brainstorming about planning for the future.
Looking Ahead: Deepening the EXPLO-Collaborative Partnership
A few weeks later, Catherine Lindroth, the Collaborative's Director, and Jocelyn Stewart of Barclay's Bank (one of the Collaborative’s funders) visited EXPLO at Wheaton to check out an EXPLO summer in action and to continue the conversation about how EXPLO could help the Collaborative scale to multiple cities over the next few years.
This fall, Crystal Hercules, a former Teach for America corps member, will begin a one-year residency with EXPLO to help prepare her to take on a leadership role with the Collaborative as it expands its service area. EXPLO is also looking at taking on a greater role in advising and training with the Collaborative.
"This is an exciting time," Moira says. "A partnership of this type means that EXPLO can leverage its experience and expertise to help local community organizations expand their capacity to stem summer learning loss. If that starts happening in cities across the United States, then we’re talking about some big changes in education. But it also means some real changes in what the future holds for each of the low-income students served by these camps. These are kids with potential. If we can help them realize that potential, it’s a win for them, their families, their communities, and really, for all of us."